Crimes Planned in Prison

Question Time — Scottish Executive — Justice and Law Officers – in the Scottish Parliament at 2:17 pm on 9th March 2006.

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Photo of Stewart Stevenson Stewart Stevenson Scottish National Party 2:17 pm, 9th March 2006

To ask the Scottish Executive how many people have been prosecuted since 1999 for planning or encouraging, while held in prison, a crime committed outside prison. (S2O-9203)

The Solicitor General for Scotland (Mrs Elish Angiolini):

The Crown Office and Procurator Fiscal Service case management database cannot be used to distinguish between offences that are committed in prison and offences that are committed outside prison.

Photo of Stewart Stevenson Stewart Stevenson Scottish National Party

I thank the Solicitor General for that not wholly illuminating answer. She may be aware that a written answer has told me that, between 1 April 2004 and 30 September 2005, 281 mobile phones were taken off prisoners—62 of which were in Saughton prison. Does she share my concern that the use of mobile phones held illegally by prisoners to facilitate communications with the outside world will enable them to continue to have control over their evil empires—especially in the area of drugs—outside prison?

The Solicitor General for Scotland:

I am sorry that my answer could not be more illuminating. It would come as no surprise to any member of the public that when criminals are put together in one place, they are likely to conspire to commit crimes. Although we do not have a database as such, we know that there have been prosecutions for crimes that have been planned, and sometimes committed, in prison.

Although mobile phones are a great blessing for innovation in industry and commerce and communication, they also facilitate crime, so Stewart Stevenson's point is well made. The possession of mobile phones in prison, which would be unlawful, would be of concern to members of the public. All communications in prison, other than privileged communications, are subject to monitoring and surveillance, although we would not want to indicate when and where. The use of mobile phones in prison is a particular challenge and I am sure that, subject to a regulatory and statutory regime, any innovation that could counter that more effectively would be a matter of interest to my colleague, the Minister for Justice.